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Bill Shipp - 02/15/09
WELFARE KINGS

One sure sign we are facing hard times: The usually suave and gentle corporate lobbyists are beginning to show their fangs.

The lobby for Georgia Power, once known as "A Citizen Wherever It Serves," is demanding legislative approval for a measure that would make its customers pay for a new nuclear plant - six or seven years before the plant generated one spark of consumer power.

For Georgia folks trapped in Georgia Power's monopoly service area, that amounts to a monthly tax increase.

Seems to me the old rule used to be: "Never increase taxes during a recession."

The rule has been changed slightly: "Never increase taxes during a recession, except when Georgia Power wants to be paid far in advance for the service it will one day provide."

By the way, some of that juice from the layaway power plant is expected to be sold in Florida and other states.

If you think Georgia Power is not living up to its promise of good citizenship, check out some of our banks.

Remember how President Ronald Regan used to rail against welfare queens living off government entitlements and screaming to high heaven if their welfare checks didn't arrive on time?

Well, the welfare queens are back, except this time they're dressed out in pinstripes. And they look and act like some Georgia bankers we know.

Joe Brannen, president of the Georgia Bankers Association, is outraged at the government's foot-dragging on parceling out doles to smaller banks. After all, Congress approved the banks' aid program weeks ago - when W. was still president.

"It is unacceptable that only two community banks in Georgia have had their applications acted on by Treasury," Brannen said the other day. "We would like those applications that are pending to receive a yes or no answer so these banks will know."

Did you ever think you'd see the day when your community banker - a bulwark against government interference - would be demanding his government entitlement checks before the ink was dry on their multibillion-dollar bailout bill?

Seems like only yesterday that Brannen went to bat with Gov. Sonny Perdue to make certain Georgia's predatory lending bill was written correctly.

"Bottom line, if we cannot sell these loans in the secondary market, we cannot make the loans," Brannen said in 2003. Brannen won his way. The predatory loan bill was cleaned up and passed. The banks sold their spotty loans to the secondary market, and now they're begging - no, demanding - a federal rescue from a set of really bad business decisions, like trying to palm off bundles of delinquent loans.

Of course, Brannen hasn't spent all his time pressuring the federal boys to start printing those welfare checks.

In mid-January the Georgia Bankers Association spent $17,605.50 on a reception for Georgia legislators. In 2008 the bankers spent a paltry $13,700 on hosting a legislative reception.

Last year the bankers shelled out $1,100 to pay Rep. Larry O'Neal's way to their convention. They also covered the expenses for Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter and Reps. Jan Jones and James Mills. The lawmakers had a heck of a time consorting with the bankers, our society reporter tells us.

This is microscopic chickenfeed compared to the $1,400 trash can and the $35,000 commode purchased on the dole by the Wall Street big shots.

But the principle is the same: Welfare queens can't buy liquor with food stamps. Why should bankers be permitted to secure luxuries and host parties with their portion of the government dole?

The answer: Welfare queens don't have as much muscle in the General Assembly as the striped-suit bankers and the hardhat power company guys.

One other thing: Remember how presidential candidate Barack Obama told us we had to do something with the growing entitlement programs? He has kept his word. He is giving entitlements to the poor bankers and, don't forget, to bighearted automobile companies, too.

You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net, or Web address: billshipponline.com.